Chronic pain affects more than 23 million Americans on a daily basis, according to a report from the National Institutes of Health. If you’re one of them, you know the severe toll chronic pain can take on your life and even your mental well-being. Unfortunately, finding meaningful, long-term relief for chronic pain symptoms isn’t always a simple process. Often, treatments involve ongoing courses of pain medication including opioid pain relievers which can be extremely addictive. Long-term use of some pain medications can wind up damaging your liver or other organs, especially at higher doses or doses that increase over time.
Chronic pain “happens” when your nerves send signals to your brain and your brain interprets those signals as pain. Some chronic pain syndromes like fibromyalgia cause nerves to be overly sensitized to pain signals, which means even a slight touch or minor stimulation can wind up being interpreted as significant discomfort. Since your nervous system plays a major role in chronic pain, it makes sense to look for treatments that help block or modulate signaling so painful symptoms are relieved. At Advanced Spine and Pain, we offer epidural steroid injections to help relieve painful symptoms as well as related inflammation that can make symptoms worse. Here’s how the treatment works.
Epidural steroid injections: What are they?
Your spine is composed of a series of bones that form a tunnel or canal for all your nerves as they travel from your brain to all the other areas of your body. When nerves are overstimulated or irritated, you can experience pain not just around your spine, but anywhere along the pathway of that specific nerve. Treating inflammation and irritation near your spine helps block pain signals so your symptoms are relieved.
While the nerves are contained in the very center of your spinal canal, epidural injections are made into the very outer layer of the spine, outside the actual spinal cord. This space is called the epidural space ("epi" means outside, and "dural" refers to the tough membrane that surrounds your spinal cord). Corticosteroids are potent anti-inflammatory medications that can help reduce irritation in and around the nerves as they leave your spine. Injections usually also include anesthetics to help relieve pain right away.
Since they work by blocking pain signals at your nerve roots, they can be very useful in treating many types of medical conditions. The most common conditions treated with epidural steroid injections include:
- herniated or ruptured discs
- sciatica (pain in the lower back and radiating into the buttocks and legs)
- spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal, often associated with aging)
- chronic or recurrent pain in the neck, arms or legs
- radiculitis, which involves radiating pain symptoms
Epidural steroid injections usually aren’t prescribed unless oral pain relievers and other therapies prove ineffective in relieving your painful symptoms.
What happens during the injection treatment?
Epidural injections are performed right in our office on an outpatient basis, and they typically take no more than 15 minutes. If you need injections in multiple areas, your treatment can take a little longer. After your doctor determines the best location for your injection, that area will be numbed with a local anesthetic so the epidural injection is more comfortable.
Once your injections are done, you’ll be monitored for about a half hour before being able to go home. The injection site might be a little sore for a few hours after your treatment, but you can relieve discomfort with an ice pack.
You may notice an immediate improvement in your symptoms after your injections are done or you may notice a slight increase in symptoms for a few days as a result of temporary irritation caused by the injection. Within two to four days of treatment, you should experience a significant decrease in your symptoms, and those results should last for several months. Depending on the condition that’s being treated, your doctor might recommend additional or ongoing injections to provide long-term relief.
Find out more about epidural steroid injections
Epidural steroid injections at Advanced Spine and Pain can provide men and women with long-term relief for chronic pain symptoms. To find out if epidural injections are a good choice for your symptoms, book an appointment online today.